Authored by the Initiative’s chief economist Dr Eric Crampton, Seeing the problem, but missing the point explains that more work should be done to analyse the performance of New Zealand’s schools.

“The government is right to wish to erase the stigma attached to lower decile schools. While lower decile schools fare worse in league tables of NCEA performance, those performance differences are largely due to factors outside of the school’s control,” says Crampton.

The Initiative proposes to make greater use of data on the family background of students to assess schools’ performance. This would not only help end decile stigma, but it would also help teachers, leaders and school boards to govern and improve their schools.

“There is an immense opportunity in using New Zealand’s excellent data infrastructure to improve excellence and equity in our education system. Minor tweaks to the decile funding model do little to further that worthy goal,” says Crampton.


  1. I have been involved in the work to replace the decile system both with the previous government and now with the current government. I can say with confidence that the work being done is not a minor tweak. It is in fact taking the opportunity you are recommend to use the wealth of data in the IDI. That data enables the identification of those factors in a child’s life that best predict achievement or under achievement at school. [It should be noted that because a factor helps predict an outcome it can not be assumed that that factor actually causes the outcome. It also allows us to get a much more accurate picture of the impact of different concentrations of students with those factors on a school.
    From that, additional support and resources can be targeted to where the need is greatest. This is of course what the decile system was set up to do but that approach was limited by the fact that it only used data from the census. As you note NZ has an excellent data infrastructure and it makes perfect sense to use it.

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